Saint of the Day – 1 February – St Brigid of Ireland/Kildare (c 453-523) Virgin, Abbess, Apostle of Charity and foundress of several monasteries of nuns, including that of Kildare in Ireland, which was famous and was revered – born in 453 at Faughart, County Louth, Ireland and died on 1 February 523 at Kildare, Ireland of natural causes. Patronages – Ireland, babies, blacksmiths, boatme, brewers, cattle, chicken farmers, children whose parents are not married, children with abusive fathers, children born into abusive unions, Clan Douglas, dairymaids, dairy workers, Florida, fugitives, Leinster, mariners, midwives, milk maids, nuns, poets, the poor, poultry farmers, printing presses, sailors, scholars, travellers, watermen.
Next to the glorious St Patrick, St Brigid, whom we may consider his spiritual daughter in Christ, has ever been held in singular veneration in Ireland.
Historians say we know a lot more about St Brigid than we have facts, a polite way of saying that legends swirl about Ireland’s most celebrated woman. But even legends may have cores of truth. And some miracle stories are not legends at all but true accounts of God’s interventions.
Brigid was the daughter of a slave woman and a chieftain, who liberated her at the urging of his overlord. As a girl she sensed a call to become a nun and St Mel, bishop of Armagh, received her vows. Before Brigid, consecrated virgins lived at home with their families. But the saint, imitating Patrick, began to assemble nuns in communities, a historic move which enriched the church in Ireland.
In 471, Brigid founded a monastery for both women and men at Kildare. This was the first convent in Ireland and Brigid was the abbess. Under her leadership Kildare became a centre of learning and spirituality. Her school of art fashioned both lovely utensils for worship and beautifully illustrated manuscripts. Again following Patrick’s model, Brigid used Kildare as a base and built convents throughout the island. The renown of Brigid’s unbounded charity drew multitudes of the poor to Kildare, the fame of her piety attracted thither many persons anxious to solicit her prayers or to profit by her holy example. In course of time the number of these so much increased that it became necessary to provide accommodation for them in the neighbourhood of the new monastery and thus was laid the foundation and origin of the town of Kildare.
Brigid’s hallmark was uninhibited, generous giving to anyone in need. Many of the saint’s earliest miracles seem to have rescued her from punishment for having given something to the poor that was intended for someone else. For example, once as a child she gave a piece of bacon to a dog and was glad to find it replaced when she was about to be disciplined. Brigid exhibited this unbounded charity all her life, giving away valuables, clothing, food—anything close by—to anyone who asked.
One of the most appealing things told of Brigid is her contemporaries’ belief that there was peace in her blessing. Not merely did contentiousness die out in her presence but just as by the touch of her hand she healed leprosy, so by her very will for peace she healed strife and laid antiseptics on the suppurating bitterness that foments it.
In the ninth century, the country being desolated by the Danes, the remains of St Brigid were removed in order to secure them from irreverence and, being transferred to Down-Patrick, were deposited in the same grave with those of the glorious St Patrick. Their bodies, together with that of St Columba, were translated afterwards to the cathedral of the same city but their monument was destroyed in the reign of King Henry VIII. The head of St Brigid is now kept in the church of the Jesuits at Lisbon.
Saint Brigid’s Cross
A special type of cross known as “Saint Brigid’s cross” is popular throughout Ireland. It commemorates a famous story in which Brigid went to the home of a pagan leader when people told her that he was dying and needed to hear the Gospel message quickly. When Brigid arrived, the man was delirious and upset, unwilling to listen to what Brigid had to say. So she sat with him and prayed and while she did, she took some of the straw from the floor and began weaving it into the shape of a cross. Gradually the man quieted down and asked Brigid what she was doing. She then explained the Gospel to him, using her handmade cross as a visual aid. The man then came to faith in Jesus Christ and Brigid baptised him just before he died.Today, many Irish people display a Saint Brigid’s cross in their homes, since it is said to help ward off evil and welcome good. Brigid died in 523 and after her death people began to venerate her as a saint, praying to her for help seeking to heal from God, since many of the miracles during her lifetime related to healing.
Blessing of St Brigid’s Crosses
Father of all creation and Lord of Light,
You have given us life and entrusted Your creation to us, to use it and to care for it.
We ask You to bless these crosses made of green rushes in memory of holy Brigid,
who used the cross to recall and to teach Your Son’s life, death and resurrection.
May these crosses be a sign of our sharing in the Paschal Mystery of your Son
and a sign of Your protection of our lives, our land and its creatures,
through Brigid’s intercession, during the coming year and always.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
The crosses are sprinkled with holy water:
May the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit
be on these crosses and on the places where they hang
and on everyone who looks at them.